EMIKO – A Short Film by Justin Robert Vinall


Justin Robert Vinall’s “EMIKO” is a terrifying short film that takes its inspiration from Japanese horror. In a recent interview, Vinall describes why the genre fascinates him;

“Japanese Horror is far more atmospheric [than American film], and focuses on family, tradition, and remorse in the forms of ghosts or demons”

“EMIKO’s” story centers around the dysfunctional bond that is formed between an ailing young woman and her caretaker. The film’s cinematography, color choices, sound, and editing all combine to scare the hell out of the audience without the use of any cheap jumpscare gimmicks. As Vinall explains, “We would have scenes in EMIKO that would walk the line [between] what is reality and what is a dream.” From an audience perspective, not always being able to discern the protagonist’s experience as reality, dream, or hallucination adds to the tension, throwing us off just enough so that we have no idea of what to expect.
Emiko photo

Thomas has come to watch over Emiko for the weekend. He seems like a nice enough guy until he spies a photo of the young woman in a red dress. The discordant chords of the musical score, and the ever-more claustrophobic framing of Thomas’ face as he stares lustily at the photo make us wonder if he is as trustworthy as we first imagined.

Symbolism in Emiko

As the plot thickens, red comes to symbolize passion and aggression, reminiscent of Thomas’ reaction to the photo of Emiko in the red dress.  He has fevered delusions about the girl after an incident in which she gets violently ill, grabs his hand for support, and digs her fingernails into his palm until she draws blood. The red-toned lighting and synthesized music that Vinall uses to bring Thomas’ dreams? hallucinations? to life, weave together to give us an alarming look at his mania. These and other character-driven instances are the moments in “Emiko” that show us true horror doesn’t need a manufactured impetus to frighten us. The true terror is the potential of madness that lurks inside the dark recesses of the human mind.


The contrast between the red toned scenes and the seemingly “real” interactions between the patient and her caregiver, when they engage in “normal” conversation, gives us the sense that there is a lot being concealed. There is an air that runs throughout all of their interactions. It’s the mystery surrounding their relationship that elevates this short film to the level of true horror.


Another contrast to the passion red in the scenes with Thomas is the cool blue Vinall uses to light the moments in which Emiko is alone. There are subtle plot clues even in the color choices. The misguided passion of Thomas’ imagination in juxtaposition with Emiko’s chilling composure contains the key to the truth in the meaning of their relationship. The answers lie in each character’s motivations.


“EMIKO” is not for the faint of heart. Some of the scenes are truly horrific. It’s not a slasher movie, but if blood makes you squeamish, then be prepared. I’m not a fan of blood and gore, and thankfully there is so much more to this film. As with all great horror films, “Emiko” has layers. There is an underlying lesson, a statement about toxic masculinity and how easily people can be manipulated under the right circumstances.

“There’s A Monster Inside Us All.”

Check out the Emiko trailer HERE

You can find all of Justin Vinall’s work on YouTube at Next Floor Entertainment, or on Vimeo and you can follow him Twitter and Instagram at Next Floor Entertainment.

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